‘Crisis Pregnancy Centre’ is a term of art. It means a counselling centre that advertises that it provides neutral pregnancy counselling, but anyone unwise or unlucky enough to go there soon discovers it’s a front for an anti-choice pressure group. They bait pregnant people with the promise of neutrality and a cheap pregnancy test, then switch to high-pressure tactics to convince the pregnant person not to abort.

Persuasion has some moral force, because it involves fully informed consent to the conversation on all sides. Coercion has no moral force. Under coercion I would include lies, subterfuge, and scams like crisis pregnancy centres.

Crisis pregnancy centres have to be run as cons. They have to trick women to get them in the door, because everyone knows they are not neutral, not unbiased, and moreover, whoever walks through the door will be subjected to an unpleasant hard sell by people who won’t take no for an answer.

If there were a service out there that listened rather than told, that attempted to persuade respectfully rather than bulldoze, what would that even look like? And who would trust it enough to give it a try? The usual crisis pregnancy centre suspects have poisoned the well.

For those who approach their own discomfort around abortion with kindness, for those who wish to make abortion unnecessary rather than illegal, it must be frustrating to be so poorly served by the authoritarian leaders of the alleged “pro-life” movement.

Anti-abortionists who don’t subscribe to authoritarian tactics should think long and hard about what their movement actually represents: coercing women through force of law to maintain pregnancies they do not want, lying to women about dodgy research, lying to women about their intentions at crisis pregnancy centres, harassing women outside abortion clinics, proselytising women under the guise of counselling. Where is the honour? Where is the morality?

Anyone who can look at that list of coercive actions and think, “well, but it’s OK in the service of our movement”, needs to think long and hard about whether the ends really justify the means.

As for the authoritarians, I wonder whether they are more attracted to the ends or the means.